The Blood Brothers - Crimes
The Blood Brothers, on their latest album, Crimes, are a mess of sound and fury, macabre lyrics, screaming and throaty singing and fast, fast songs that, nevertheless, are often times not nearly as fast as on past albums. The Blood Brothers have evolved with their latest album, injecting at least a partial sense of pop into their hardcore past. It's still an incredibly unique sound, though, and terribly entertaining.
The level of intensity that the two singers, Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie, maintain throughout the album is impressive. They scream their way through the songs, track after track, laying themselves out with such energy and enthusiasm that it becomes certain that they'll have to collapse at some point. But they keep going, never losing the overall intensity and manic energy that constantly propels the record forward.
There are moments, though, when they slow down to some degree--though "slow down" is relative to this band, not to the music scene as a whole. The screaming will abate from time to time to create a dark mood, a black atmosphere in which the twisted and imaginative lyrics shine and take hold, tunneling into the listener's mind. You can hear this at the beginning of the third track, "Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck," as the song opens with the whispered lyrics, "Those tire tracks / zigzag your torso like the Devil's self portrait." This is one of the quieter songs on the album. It sacrifices some of the energy of other tracks for a focus on moodiness and macabre story-telling. Ultimately, though, to say it is quieter is to speak in relative terms, as it is not actually quiet, which becomes apparent when the screaming kicks in, laden with dark emotion and disappointment, pain and loss.
With this album, listeners will find longer and more layered songs than they did early on in The Blood Brothers' career, a change that works very well. While this is no pop album, by any stretch of the imagination, there's far more melody on Crimes than on The Blood Brothers' early albums. They have moved beyond the hardcore scene without completely abandoning it, creating a fascinating mixture of musical genres that still manages to assault the listener, just in a more melodic way. There are still short and crazed tracks, but they are mixed in with more complicated songs that serve to give a slight breather.
Their two singers create a strange but enjoyable mixture of high- and low-pitched vocals that can quickly grow on the listener. The juxtaposition can perhaps best be heard on "Live at the Apocalypse Cabaret" as the two singers trade off lines, alternating and at times overlaying each other to create a wonderful mixture of high and screaming and low and grumbling, gravel-voiced lyrics pressing up against a screech that threatens to disintegrate under its intensity.
Some of the change ups on the album are near-breathtaking. In "Rats and Rats and Rats For Candy," The Blood Brothers throw nearly everything at the listener, switching maniacally between high and low vocals, throwing out constant tempo changes, moving from slower and more pronounced lyrics to intense screaming. The song is pandemonium, yet it never becomes frustrating or annoying. It enfolds the listener in energy and insanity, driving forever forward.
Then the album shifts gears again and moves into contemplative and dwelling lyrics with the title track. This happens again and again, the switch between different musical styles, a variety of tempos and intensity, never long being content with one pace. It offers a great variety and ever-changing musical landscape. It's hard to lose interest in this album as it barrels along, always morphing and evolving.
Try to understand the lyrics as Johnny Whitney screams, "The carnival's glossy ghosts, / zebra-painted horses parade, / the cotton candy prostitutes, / caramel apple corpses singing, / 'Just this way to the neon orange gallows! / Tonight we tie the noose around the killer's collar! / Watch him play his wind pipe organ!'" Listen as Jordan Blilie growls, "If the brick / you throw / puts a bullet in your skull / and a police boot lands atop your gaping jaw?" on the song "Peacock Skeleton With Crooked Feathers." Then revel in the pure and dark macabre as the two of them together sing, "If tuxedos slither off corpses / and copulate wild on wedding cake, / and the priest starts snapping photos?" These songs are in no way tame and seem specifically designed to evoke emotion and drag up dark and imaginative imagery, to slither and snake their way into the listener's mind. The album evokes a black world, complete with dysfunction and pain and descriptive horror. Yet, this does not come across as a depressing album, either, with the malevolent lyrics consistently expressed in a playful and at times taunting manner.
Crimes is an impressive balancing of moods and sounds. It's an amazing mixture of hardcore and melody, with a touch of pop thrown in to keep everything off-balance. The Blood Brothers are not producing the same music they once were, but this is not a bad development. Instead, they have evolved and created a style of music that stands apart from the crowd and that deserves wide recognition. I'm excited to see what they'll come up with next.